Governance, Pathways and the Transformation of Global Agri-Food Systems


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Presentation by Dr John Thompson, STEPS Agriculture and Food convenor, at the Resilience 2011 conference in Arizona State -

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  • inform mainstream policy-making about orientations of innovation enhance high-level political debate over priorities, values, interests extend diversity of perspectives on directions for innovation build new modes of accountability in pubic and private sectors enable more distributed and diverse forms of innovation activity address global structures in international innovation systems
  • Governance, Pathways and the Transformation of Global Agri-Food Systems

    1. 1. Governance, Pathways and the Transformation of Global Agri-Food Systems Dr John Thompson Research Fellow, Knowledge, Technology and Society, Institute of Development Studies and Co-convenor, Food and Agriculture Domain The STEPS Centre, UK Resilience 2011 – Crossing the Chasm Session 13 March 2011 – Arizona State University
    2. 2. Presentation <ul><li>Technological progress and innovation pathways </li></ul><ul><li>Framing, narratives and pathways to food futures </li></ul><ul><li>Environmental change and maize innovation pathways </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘global food crisis’ and governance challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Reframing the debate – ‘3Ds’  directionality, distribution, diversity </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul>
    3. 3. Linear view of agricultural science and technology <ul><li>Notions of ‘ progress’ pervade debates about food and agricultural futures </li></ul><ul><li>Agricultural history is viewed as a ‘ race to advance science and technology ’ without stating the particular direction </li></ul><ul><li>Treats innovation as homogenous: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No distinctions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No alternatives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No politics </li></ul></ul>Progress Past Future Andy Stirling, STEPS Centre/Univ of Sussex
    4. 4. Open nature of technological progress Progress Science Technology <ul><li>Governments proclaim ‘ pro-innovation ’ and ‘ pro-sustainability ’ policies, without specifying which options or values are prioritised – and why </li></ul><ul><li>Dissent over choice of directions is treated as ‘ anti-technology ’ </li></ul><ul><li>Underlying view of technological progress: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>seen as singular pathway </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>determined by science… </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. The missing economics of direction Time <ul><li>But innovation in agri-food systems is ‘vector’ not ‘scalar’ </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation pathways are characterised by the crucial property of direction as well as magnitude </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to assert a single, uniquely objective ‘ way forward ’ toward an optimal food and agricultural future </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><ul><li>Many past examples of repeated ‘ lock-in ’ at expense of diversity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… QWERTY keyboards… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… Microsoft Windows software… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> … Internal combustion engine… </li></ul></ul>Deliberately or not – societies close down directions of change and transformation Pressures intensify with globalisation, harmonisation, standardisation Time Historic ‘branching pathways’ Innovation is vector, not scalar
    7. 7. Future innovation pathways? <ul><ul><li>Plural interests and values favour a diversity of directions or ‘innovation pathways’: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g., seed production: – commercial industrial hybrids </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– genetic modification / MAB </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– public open source research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– participatory plant breeding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– farmer-led seed multiplication </li></ul></ul>Time Innovation is vector, not scalar
    8. 8. Framing matters <ul><li>Framing – different interpretations and valuations of innovation pathways reflect different people’s perspectives and priorities </li></ul><ul><li>Competing framings/narratives are linked to particular actors, networks and interests </li></ul><ul><li>Co-produced with specific governance and innovation strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Dominant narratives vs. alternative narratives (sometimes hidden or suppressed) </li></ul> these ‘ narratives’ – i.e. story lines – drive different policy and scientific responses
    9. 9. environment system dominant framing <ul><li>Dominant: </li></ul><ul><li>Avian Flu as a </li></ul><ul><li>‘ global security threat’ </li></ul><ul><li>Biofuels as </li></ul><ul><li>‘ sustainable energy’ </li></ul><ul><li>GM technology as </li></ul><ul><li>‘ farmer empowerment’ </li></ul><ul><li>Drought Tolerant Maize as </li></ul><ul><li>‘ resilience in the seed’ </li></ul>Powerful institutions assert particular framings in ag policy debates
    10. 10. environment system marginal framings dominant framing <ul><li>Alternative: </li></ul><ul><li>Avian Flu as a </li></ul><ul><li>‘ local livelihood problem’ </li></ul><ul><li>Biofuels as </li></ul><ul><li>‘ carbon intensive’ </li></ul><ul><li>GM technology as </li></ul><ul><li>‘ industrial control’ </li></ul><ul><li>Drought Tolerant Maize as </li></ul><ul><li>‘ technological lock in’ </li></ul>Powerful institutions may close down alternative framings in ag policy debates
    11. 11. Using maize as a ‘window’ though which to assess the dynamics of environmental, social and technical change in ‘innovation systems’ in Africa
    12. 12. <ul><li>Traced ‘innovation pathways’ in maize and other key crops in Kenya in response to rapid environmental, social and technical change </li></ul><ul><li>Examined ways in which different actors in different settings understand ‘resilience’ to growing uncertainty </li></ul><ul><li>Assessed how their assumptions frame agricultural R&D and food policy agendas and steer innovations and resources in particular directions </li></ul>Environmental change and maize innovation pathways
    13. 13. Farming System Livelihood System National Food System Intensification High-input / Low-input Related Inputs + Practices Input Provision – Public vs Private Diversification On/Off Farm / Commercialisation Market Access Framing ‘Resilience’ at Different Scales Seed National Food Security Strategy, Policies and Programmes Drought Tolerant Hybrid Varieties/ Openly Pollinated Varieties/ Local / Farmers’ Seed Shocks Stresses
    14. 14. Environmental change and maize innovation pathways <ul><li>Climate change narrative leading to concerns about growing food insecurity in Africa </li></ul><ul><li>Dominant framing  Maize security = food security – has huge influence on national food policy debates </li></ul><ul><li>New R&D, government policy and major donor investments in developing ‘ Drought Tolerant ’ / ‘ Water Efficient ’ Maize for dryland environments </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Pathways in and out of maize ’ –understanding the ‘ lock in ’ to the dominant maize pathway  ‘ Why maize?’ and ‘Why not alternatives?’ </li></ul>
    15. 15. Competing narratives <ul><li>‘ Growing food deficits require massive boosts to agricultural productivity – modern plant breeding and genetic engineering can deliver solutions that need to be rolled out at scale.’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Food insecurities are complex and diverse, and shaped by particular ecological, economic, social and institutional interests – consequently they require context-specific, socio-technical solutions in which farmer knowledge and local innovation play a central role.’ </li></ul>
    16. 16. A Global Food Crisis?
    17. 17. <ul><li>Can future populations be fed equitably, healthily and sustainably? </li></ul><ul><li>Can we cope with future demands on water ? </li></ul><ul><li>Can we provide enough energy to supply the growing population coming out of poverty? </li></ul><ul><li>Can we do this while mitigating and adapting to climate change ? </li></ul>Energy Increased demand 50% by 2030 (IEA) Water Increased demand 30% by 2030 (IFPRI) Food Increased demand 50% by 2030 (FAO) Questions to 2030/50 Drivers of change: Demand for food, water and energy in a changing climate Climate Change
    18. 18. Crisis narratives and ‘ perfect storms’ &quot;We head into a perfect storm in 2030, because all of these things are operating on the same time frame. If we don't address this, we can expect major destabilisation, an increase in rioting and potentially significant problems with international migration, as people move out to avoid food and water shortages.“ Prof John Beddington The Guardian (18 Mar 09)
    19. 19. Crisis narratives and ‘ perfect storms’
    20. 20. Does this lead to policy action? <ul><li>Two further questions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do crisis narratives – e.g. ‘perfect storm’ framing – help or hinder policy action? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What sort of governance arrangements are needed to respond to these dynamic and uncertain conditions? </li></ul></ul>
    21. 21. Agriculture: Back on the agenda Enhancing Development Impact from Research: Building on Demand 28-31 March 2010, Montpellier, France
    22. 22. Responding to the ‘crisis’ <ul><li>Millennium Development Goals  concentrating minds and mobilising resources to meet specific targets </li></ul><ul><li>New policy statements from major development players  WDR 2008; IAASTD; ‘Agricultural G-20’… </li></ul><ul><li>New initiatives  High Level Task Force; AU/NEPAD = CAADP; Rockefeller/Gates = AGRA; WFP = Hunger Hot Spots; WB = New Deal on Global Food Policy; US Gov’t = Feed the Future… </li></ul><ul><li>Emerging global agenda  addressing the global food (and nutrition) crisis, climate change, reform of trade rules, IPRs, global public goods (ag R&D), ecological services, new pests and diseases … </li></ul><ul><li>… and governance?? </li></ul>
    23. 23. Governing food systems <ul><li>Food governance regimes are contested and in a state of flux </li></ul><ul><li>The EU’s CAP is under comprehensive review with protagonists pushing in many directions </li></ul><ul><li>Parts of US Govt want liberalisation under Doha; others battle to protect domestic constituencies </li></ul><ul><li>Some CGIAR institutions want to retreat up-stream, while others promote an ‘Agricultural Research for Development’ (AR4D) agenda </li></ul><ul><li>The BMGF is exhibiting some loss of nerve, with senior figures in its ‘silver bullets’ approach </li></ul>
    24. 24. Global food system governance <ul><li>At the global level there are also tensions between </li></ul><ul><ul><li>UN High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the Global Food Security Crisis and its Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA) , and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>G-8 response to the food crisis (L’Aquila Food Security Initiative), pledging US$20bil over 3 years . (Only $350mil committed so far) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The former seeks to empower governments of LDCs though the FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>latter assigns control mainly to donor countries and the World Bank’s Global Ag & Food Security Prog (GAFSP) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These contestations offers scope for new thinking about governance of the global food system </li></ul>
    25. 25. Dominant narratives <ul><li>Two narratives have come to shape the dominant agricultural policy debates: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Production-Innovation Narrative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Growth-Efficiency Narrative </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Both invoked crisis narratives about global (and regional) agri-food systems – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1960s = population explosion, hunger and political instability  leading to a ‘ Red Revolution ’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2010s = food + water + energy + climate change crisis  ‘Perfect Storms’ + new revolutions?? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Both draw on different sources for scientific legitimacy and call for mobilisation of financial, technical and institutional resources through the international aid machinery  ‘Green Revolutions’? </li></ul>
    26. 26. Dominant narratives and policy solutions – Missing the target? Problem Solution Goal Meeting the MDGs – Target 1c Reduce by half proportion of people who suffer from hunger Low productivity Low growth New technology and innovation Assumed Outcome Trade reform and market liberalisation Improved food and nutritional security for the ‘ bottom billion’ … but it ain’t necessarily so
    27. 27. <ul><li>‘ Scarcity’ often emerges as a political strategy to justify certain policy interventions over others </li></ul><ul><li>But scarcity is not a natural condition  it is socially constructed through imbalances of power </li></ul><ul><li>Famines, energy shortages and water stress are failures of the equitable allocation of resources, not just the result of generalised shortages, global environmental change or market inefficiencies – or their convergence at critical junctures </li></ul><ul><li>Addressing the needs of food insecure people requires a fundamental shift from the language of scarcity to that of resource allocation, access and entitlement </li></ul>Challenging dominant narratives
    28. 28. Alternative narratives <ul><li>Critiques of the dominant narratives have led to the emergence of a number of alternatives: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Agroecological narrative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Participatory narrative </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Both seek to understand the dynamic and multi-functional nature of agri-food systems </li></ul><ul><li>Both promote local knowledge and innovation , which support diverse forms of co-inquiry and co-management </li></ul><ul><li>They are necessarily interdisciplinary and synthetic </li></ul><ul><li>Stress the democratisation of ag R&D </li></ul>
    29. 29. <ul><li>A “3D” agenda </li></ul><ul><li>Directionality – of pathways towards specific sustainability objectives </li></ul><ul><li>Distribution – more equitable distribution of benefits, costs and risks associated with innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Diversity – in order to build robust and resilient socio-technical systems, mitigate technological ‘lock-in’ and cater for seemingly irreconcilable perspectives on value and sustainability </li></ul>
    30. 30. Direction, distribution, diversity <ul><li>Questions about the future of food and agricultural systems are often restricted to: ‘yes or no?’; ‘how much?’; ‘how fast?’; ‘who leads?’ </li></ul><ul><li>More searching questions are often neglected: ‘which way?’; ‘what alternatives?’; ‘who says?’; ‘who benefits?’ and ‘why?’ </li></ul><ul><li>There are many possible pathways  each looks preferable to different actors and interests </li></ul><ul><li>Only by nurturing diversities of pathways in agri-food systems can we confidently reduce vulnerability, empower the least advantaged and promote sustainable food futures </li></ul>
    31. 31. Conclusions <ul><li>Avoid generalised diagnoses and unilinear technocratic prescriptions to complex food systems problems </li></ul><ul><li>Question the dominant (and alternative) narratives that frame food policy problems and responses </li></ul><ul><li>Address the ‘3Ds’  directionality, distribution and diversity in food and ag policy </li></ul><ul><li>Promote and nurture a new global politics of science, technology and innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Foster multiple pathways to sustainable food and agriculture futures  negotiate trade-offs and identify synergies </li></ul>
    32. 32. Thank You <ul><li>John Thompson </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>STEPS Centre </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>